When I bought our property in 2012, we were eating basically a “traditional foods” diet–Paleo but with a small amount of grains such as brown rice or oatmeal. I thought we would be able to try to grow most of our food on our 4 acres, fishing in the pond, eating eggs from our ducks and chickens, getting dairy from our own cow and goats, beef from our own cow, chicken and duck from our older birds, and pastured pig. Life was looking grand.
Until I actually got livestock.
We started off taking 2 free-lease ponies, added 2 miniature cattle (bull and heifer), 4 piglets (2 boys, 2 girls), 5 goats (1 boy, 4 girls), and many ducklings and chicks. We discovered that (a) not many people really need to own a bull, especially people with no cattle experience, (b) pigs really are smart and actually can be very nice, (c) everything else in the world wants to eat your birds, and (d) goats are really cute!
So we sold the cattle, which I had no business owning, and the pigs, which would come running to lay down for belly rubs whenever we yelled “piggy love!” We would have kept the pigs for pets if I’d been able to keep them separately and afford to feed them. However, something would have had to been done about the rooting. I know it’s what they’re designed to do, but I now have areas of our pasture where I can’t take the riding mower due to how deep the ruts are and I’m actually afraid that a horse would break a leg in that part of the field. Someday I hope to get it disced.
My daughter, Kaida, had already stopped eating chicken and duck after we got our own birds and she saw how cute they were. She became friends with some of them, being able to hold and pet several of our hens as well as our then-head-rooster, Halloween. Note: all of our original chickens and half of our ducks have been eaten by predators, mostly fox. We did get more chicks recently because they not only helped with bugs, but apparently helped keep the weeds in check. The backyard needs them, badly!
After selling the cows, we were still kind of okay eating beef, but had already stopped eating pork. We just lost interest in eating it; we would always picture our piggies laying down with their eyes closed for belly rubs every time we tried to eat bacon or ground pork. I had to sell the pigs, but I at least sold them to someone who would let them live on pasture without rings in their noses. The goats got to stay because they’re cheaper to feed.
By this time, I knew that I would not be able to butcher anything so I decided that if I couldn’t do it, I at least had to watch how the butchering was done and see if I could be a party to that. No, I could not. A fast shot between the eyes while still out in the field eating would be the ideal way to kill for food, but I decided that we were done with eating animal products since it wasn’t physically necessary. Luckily, Kaida was fine with that since she already didn’t really like eating meat.
Vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes would become our staples.
There were also health benefits that encouraged me to pull back from eating animal products. There have been challenges too, but I will cover them in another post.